TregoED Blog

“Diffusion Cuisine” : Menu Addition for School Districts

Wait, wait! You ARE in the right place!

You navigated to this blog because you’re interested in all things educational… and look what you found! A title that looks as if it should be in a Zagat review or a Food TV commercial!

But—seriously…hang with me for a moment or two in order to see the peculiar but appropriate synergy between “diffusion cuisine” (my term) and the business of all schools and districts—whether they are urban, rural, suburban, large, small or anywhere in between.

Before getting into the meat of the blog (pardon the intentional pun!), let me introduce myself.

I am you.

Whether you are a teacher or an administrator—whether you are new to the profession or a seasoned veteran, I have walked in your shoes…and faced the same challenges and heartaches, as well as triumphs and smiles that you do.

Carving out a career in public education that stretched from teaching seventh grade English grammar to escorting reluctant high school juniors and seniors through the delights of The Scarlet Letter to creating and administering a public alternative education high school, teaching has been my primary life choice and preeminent vocation. Blending my public school experience with years as an adjunct college instructor has allowed me to work directly with kids who ranged in age from per-pubescent to young adult. Working in an urban school district acquainted me with all matters close to the hearts of teachers and central office staff: budgets, parents, state regulations, grievances, press relations, etc.

So, now that you know a little about where I come from, it is my hope that my blog contributions will sound authentic to you because they ARE authentic; they are, I hope, representations of decades of thoughtful experience.

“Diffusion Cuisine”… what IS that????

Currently, restaurants all across the country are showering patrons with versions of “fusion cuisine”… the careful and deliberate blending of two disparate but somehow connected culinary visions into one new taste sensation—a new taste that, one hopes, carries with it the best of both its contributors but none of any negative characteristics of either.

Now, that concept is not only easy to understand but easy to enjoy, right? Asian Fusion, Tex-Mex… all of these attest to the fact that fusion works!

Think, then, for a moment, about the definition of “fusion cuisine” as well as the goal of the chefs striving to prepare it… finding a way to tease and please the jaded palates of patrons by honoring significant contributions of separate but connected contributors.

Isn’t that really what all of us in education do every day… but… BACKWARDS….. in a fashion similar to the way Ginger Rodgers danced backwards (and in high heels!) while following Fred Astaire’s lead?

We walk, march, strut or crawl into classrooms, lunchrooms, and boardrooms across the country with one “end game” in mind: bringing the best and most exciting product to our constituencies despite their differences in origin, orientation and philosophy or final goals.

While our intention is admirable, we often are overwhelmed by the simple difficulties of figuring out how to blend the dissonant voices, ratchet down the strident overtones, and blend the battling agenda.

While we are aiming for “fusion”, it is my contention that we need to concentrate on “diffusion”! In other words, accomplish our final goal may best be achieved by moving toward it… backwards!

As classroom leaders, as district leaders and as educational leaders, we need to be visionaries who foresee the potential difficulties inherent in most situations facing us. We need to be able to maximize the positive attributes our constituencies bring to the conversation while, simultaneously, minimizing the potential difficulties.

In other words, we must be ever vigilant for “diffusion” strategies! Whether difficult school-based situations involve parents and teachers, administrators and staff or boards and labor negotiators, the seminal truth is that nearly all of us believe- really- that each of us wants only what is best for his special audience—whether that audience is one child, one school or one district. To want anything other than that would be the final and ultimate horror – too unspeakable to be seriously contemplated.

I am certain that everyone reading this has developed some “diffusion strategies” that help advance their work … and I am inviting you to share them with me and– with all of our readers– by responding to this blog.

And, since good teaching is always built upon good modeling (insert smile here!), I would like to share a few of my favorite “diffusion strategies” with you… and, believe me, they are offered in no particular order!

1.)    Set It Aside For Twelve Hours!

Whether you are dealing with a student’s request, an angry parent or an enthusiastic reporter, if at all possible, allow a cooling off period to sit between the request for your attention and your response to it. My belief is that almost anyone can be held at bay if told, politely and immediately, that an answer will be forthcoming within a set number of hours… following your research, reflection and thoughtful deliberation.

2.)    Ask The Hard Question!

I have always tried to ask whoever was sitting across the desk from me in any challenging situation one hard question: “How would you like to see this resolved?”

Not only have people seemed to feel that their position was being heard and being honored, but I also got a really helpful glimpse into how their mind was working… and the answer to that question often was something I used during my “set it aside time” as I tried to honestly diffuse the situation and find an honorable solution.

3.)     End With A Smile

No matter how hard or how acrimonious the initial conversation might have been, ending the interchange with a warm smile and a positive statement that I hoped we could work together to find a solution always seemed to lessen the tensions of the final moments in a meeting

So—no matter what your position is within the educational spectrum, try adding some “diffusion cuisine” to the menu of problem solving techniques you currently use… my bet is that you will discover an affinity for your “new” approach… maybe you’ll even order Tex-Mex for take out tonight instead of your usual pizza!


Bon Appétit!

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